Brushing My Toddler's Teeth with Sugar: Part OneCasey Mullins
I spent last week with some singing and dancing dentists and last night I brushed my kids’ teeth with sugar* and sent them to bed. I’ve worked closely with a company for the past year or so on a few local TV spots and this past week I was able to attend a conference they put on allowing dentists, researchers, doctors, dental hygienists, naturopaths, writers, and nutritionists the ability to learn more about the sweetener xylitol.
Did your red flags just go up at the word ‘sweetener’ and ‘xylitol?’ I know mine did when I was first asked to work with the product. I avoid artificial sweeteners like open mouth coughing in public, mainly because I think they taste terrible but also because anything that is known to cause cancer in lab rats isn’t exactly my jam. I contacted a local naturopath after reading up on xylitol and was comforted to know that she loves, advocates and supports the use of xylitol. As far as the name ‘xylitol’ it’s really just bad press. ‘Xyl’ is from the Greek word for wood and ‘itol’ is the scientific ending of sugar alcohols. Since xylitol comes from woody products that would otherwise be thrown away (think sugarcane after the sugar has been taken out, date palm branches and leaves as well as coconut husks) ‘wood sugar’ is a pretty accurate description even though it sounds scary and fake.
Basically I came away from this conference a changed woman, wife and mother. While so many of the scientific studies flew right over my head and past the concierge, much of it made perfect sense, especially when it comes to the use of xylitol with children. I told my best friend last night I feel as though I’ve been brainwashed, how can something so simple that’s been around for so long (late 19th century) not be used and adored by everyone? I blabbed about it to strangers on the plane, I’ve talked my husbands ear off about it and as of today both of my girls are on a xylitol regimen.
I’ve tried to think of a way to explain xylitol to you in the way I understand it, I’ve poured over medical journals, studies and reports for the past six days and now use words like strep mutans, caries and biofilms in casual conversation. (I did TERRIBLE in chemistry by the way, totally not the way my brain works.) I can even use the word ‘oral’ without dissolving into giggles.
Basically strep mutans are the bacteria in all of our mouths that can cause cavities. Some of us have more, some of us less. Some of us have an oral environment that strep mutans love to colonize while others of us have mouths that aren’t has hospitable to them. When a family says “We’ve always had bad teeth.” it’s because they’ve been passing down the same strep mutans from generation to generation. Have crummy teeth? Blame your primary care giver for the first 3 years of your life. Babies are born without any bacteria in their mouth and through kisses, finger nibbles, sharing cups, utensils and food we pass our cavity causing bacteria to our kids (sorry guys.) Thankfully I have a very low instance of cavities while my husband, well. Not so much. Addie has been pretty lucky so far (GO ME!) and Vivi has her first appointment in two weeks (I know, the first one is supposed to happen when the first tooth happens. Judge away if you’d like.)
I spent my entire life going to the dentist not knowing what was causing what and why. I’ve thrown up for more than 15 months of my life due to hyperemesis, yet my teeth remain relatively unscathed whereas my husband brushes, flosses and rinses loyally and hasn’t had the same luck. I’ll tell you what, once you learn about biofilms you never want to kiss another human or share another bite of ANYTHING EVER.
I’ve learned there’s a lot more to oral health than simply brushing and flossing. So many of us are so proactive with our own health and that of our children, how proactive are we about their oral health?
What does all of this have to do with anything? Well, this is the beginning point of my journey. A week ago I knew nothing of ozone dentistry, 5 part sugars, osteopathic medicine, the dangers of mouth breathing in young children and the use of xylitol to reduce (and hopefully eliminate) ear infections and cavities in young children for the rest of their lives. I am not a crunchy person, I am not a fad person but I am a ‘if something makes my life easier I’ll do it’ person.
Which is why I take an anti-depressant every night before bed. It makes it easier to be me.
My first step was to learn about xylitol. To ask every question I could while I had the chance. The second step? To put what I learned into action. I looked hard for pediatric dentists near me who support the use of xylitol and focus more on prevention than treatment. I’ve also found a new dentist of my own, hopefully he’ll understand why I have a white knuckle grip of death on his chair and he’ll go easy on me. I experienced a dental trauma more than a decade ago and it left me terrified of the dentist, not to mention the bad reputation so many have for drilling into your mouth so they can drill into your wallet.
What is dental care like in your home? I learned this past week that not going to the dentist 9 years isn’t all that shocking. You could brush your teeth with the best toothpaste and the best toothbrush and floss like your dentist was watching you and you would still end up with cavities. Alternately, you could be one of the people who brush your teeth once a week or less and never suffer a cavity in your life. I’ve learned there’s a lot more to oral health than simply brushing and flossing. So many of us are so proactive with our own health and that of our children, how proactive are we about their oral health? If you’ve been going to the same dentist for twenty years because you’re afraid to go anywhere else or of hurting their feelings, it may be time to start looking around if you’re not truly happy or getting results. If you are happy? SWELL! Leave your city, state and favorite dentist in the comments below, give them the shout out they deserve!
Dentistry has come a LONG way in 20 years (even 10 years!) and if your dentist hasn’t? There’s a chance you or your children are suffering and don’t even know it.